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‘ReLoad’ adds versatility, diversity to Metallica’s Collection

At University Park, James Hetfield perform on the Load/ReLoad Tour March 2, 1997. Photo by Niclas Swanlund, used with permission.

At University Park, James Hetfield perform on the Load/ReLoad Tour March 2, 1997. Photo by Niclas Swanlund, used with permission.

At University Park, James Hetfield perform on the Load/ReLoad Tour March 2, 1997. Photo by Niclas Swanlund, used with permission.

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Twenty years ago, Metallica released their arguably most controversial album to date. Nov. 18 marked the 20th anniversary of Metallica’s seventh studio album, “ReLoad.” In 1995, Metallica began to write a set of 27 song recordings that were originally meant to be released as a double-album but were ultimately released as two separate albums, “Load”(1996) and “ReLoad”(1997). Upon its release, “ReLoad,” much like its predecessor, had raised controversy and critical acclaim amongst the Metallica fanbase. 1991 saw the release of Metallica’s self-titled, also known as “The Black Album,” and the metal masterpiece had skyrocketed Metallica’s success. It is one of the greatest selling albums of all time with 30 million copies sold worldwide and is their best-selling album to date. However, despite the massive success, “The Black Album” had slightly strayed from the band’s thrash metal roots.

With songs like “Enter Sandman,” “Wherever I May Roam,” and “The Struggle Within,” the album took to a more straight-forward direction, unlike their fourth album, “…And Justice For All,” which had long, powerful ballads, such as “One” and “Eye of the Beholder,” ranging from five minutes to almost 10 minutes long. The album also saw lead guitarist Kirk Hammett experimenting with different scales for solos, and rhythm guitarist/vocalist James Hetfield going for a more percussive tone on rhythm guitar. Also, a deeper, raspier, more authoritative sounding vocals. “The Black Album,” on the other hand, had shorter, more straight-to-the-point songs, a beefier, fuller guitar tone, and Kirk Hammett mostly using more of a bluesy shred style for lead guitar and solos. Despite the slight change, “The Black Album” still satisfied and pleased Metallica’s fan-base as a whole as well as gaining new fans.

The release of “Load” and “ReLoad,” however, displayed Metallica going in a completely different direction than their early albums as well as “The Black Album.” Upon their release, the Metallica fan-base was confused, some called the band “Alternica,” criticizing how the band went into a more radio-friendly direction. Half of the band’s fans saw them as sellouts, wishing for the return of their early Thrash Metal sound. The other half of the fan-base saw “Load” and “ReLoad” as the band experimenting with new styles while still maintaining their signature sound. The band stated that they wanted to experiment with new styles and wanted to do create something they wanted to do, instead of what everyone else wanted them to do.

In a 1996 interview with Guitar World Magazine, rhythm guitarist/vocalist James Hetfield stated how when other bands make a successful album,

“They’re like, ‘Wow, we made such a good record last time. We’ve got to keep doing this.’ We won’t do that.”

During the time of recording for “Load” and “ReLoad,” Kirk Hammett admitted going through a blues period, which is audible throughout the course of the two albums, especially “ReLoad.”

I am part of the fanbase that thoroughly enjoys and is impressed with “ReLoad.” Do I think that it is Metallica’s best? No, but I think that “ReLoad” is a solid record and that it has some great songs, with the heaviness and attitude that Metallica is known for. The band was going for a more bluesy, groove-oriented style and I think that they nailed it the best they could while still sounding like Metallica. Also, it adds more diversity and versatility to their discography, if I want to listen to their Thrash Metal sound with chugging riffs and blistering solos, I will listen to “…And Justice For All” and “The Black Album,” but if I am feeling more bluesy and want something to slowly bob my head along with, I will pop “ReLoad” into my CD player.

I feel that this album gets more criticism than it deserves; they took their songwriting a different direction that they wanted to go in instead of doing the same thing again, and I respect and appreciate that decision.

As far as songs on the album, I would say my favorites are “Fuel,” “Prince Charming,” and “Bad Seed.” “Fuel” still remains a main staple in their live sets and is still a crowd favorite; its driving verses and powerful chorus are nothing short of infectious, and to tie the whole song together, Kirk Hammett pulls off a simple, yet effectively satisfying solo that is the perfect mix of bluesy and melodic. Overall, “ReLoad” is definitely not Metallica’s best, but it is a solid album with some great tracks that add versatility and diversity to their discography.


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‘ReLoad’ adds versatility, diversity to Metallica’s Collection